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ver- /vər/ is an unstressed Germanic prefix that derives verbs from other verbs, nouns or adjectives. This process is productive. There are some typical semantic patterns:


  • if X is a verb: to damage, spoil, destroy or remove by X (e.g. verbranden to burn) or to X in an undesired way (e.g. verdrinken to drown);
  • if X is a noun: to fill/cover with X or to turn into Xverchromen to chrome, to chromium-plate;
  • if X is an adjective: to be/become/make (more) Xverkorten to shorten.

However, the meaning of many ver- verbs is idiosyncratic. Examples of verbs with non-transparent semantics are vervangen ver-catch to replace, verstaan ver-stand to understand and verzoeken ver-search to request. In some cases, the root does not exist as an independent verb in contemporary Dutch, as in vergeten ver-? to forget.

[+]Morphosyntactic properties

ver- is an inseparable verbalizing prefix.


Verbs with the prefix ver- are often transitive, regardless of the transitivity of the base. For example, klappen to clap, to talk is intransitive, while verklappen to blab, to tell a secret is transitive. However, there are a number of intransitive ver- words such as verblijven to stay, to live, to remain, vervallen to decay, verdwalen to lose one's way, verongelukken to die in an accident, vereenzamen to grow lonely. Some ver- verbs are inherently reflexive; examples are zich verspreken to make a slip of the tongue, zich vergapen aan to stare at, zich vergissen in to err in. The latter two take prepositional objects in addition to the reflexive pronoun (for vergapen this is obligatory, for vergissen it is optional).


The prefix attaches to Germanic verbs, nouns and adjectives (kopen buy> verkopen to sell, huis house > verhuizen to move house, arm poor > verarmen to become poor) as well as to non-Germanic verbs and nouns (though not to non-Germanic adjectives). Examples are: galloperen to gallop > zich vergalopperen to act too hastily.

[+]Input and input restrictions

ver- only rarely attaches to prefixed verbs; two exceptions are vervolmaken to perfect and possibly veronderstellen to suppose, to assume; the verbal bases volmaken and onderstellen are taken as archaic. Verbs with the prefix combination ver-ont- as in verontrusten to alarm or verontschuldigen to excuse make a special group. Intermediate forms without ver- are often missing (*ontrusten), while there are systematic links to nouns or adjectives with on- (onschuld/onschuldig innocence/innocent, onrust/onrustig restlessness/restless).

[hide extra information]

What we observe here is that the expected sequence ver-on- is replaced by ver-ont-. This can be seen as the effect of a tendency towards isomorphism: ont- is a verbalizing prefix and hence signals the verbal nature of the complex word, whereas on- appears in nouns and adjectives only. Thus, by using ont- instead of on- there is a systematic formal indication of the verbal nature of the complex words (this has been called "systematization", cf. (Van Marle 1978).

Auxiliary verbs are not available as input for ver- (*verzullen to ver-shall). Neither are particle verbs (*verafzeggen to ver-cancel). On the other hand, complex nominal or adjectival bases are unproblematic: verafgoden to idolize, vereenzamen to become lonely).

There are a few instances in which the stem is an adjective in comparative degree: verbeteren to improve, verslechteren to worsen, to deteriorate, verergeren to worsen, verouderen to age. This contradicts the general tendency for inflectional morphology to appear outside rather than inside derivational morphology.

If the stem is an irregular verb, the derived verb is also irregular (kijken to look > keek looked, zich verkijken to misjudge > verkeek misjudged).

Some ver- verbs have bases of uncertain category status. For example, vermoorden to murder could be derived from the noun moord murder or from the verb stem moord murder. In some cases, the meaning can disambiguate the structure: versnoepen to spend (money) on sweets correlates with its base in a way that suggests a deverbal derivation from snoep to eat sweets rather than the noun snoep sweets.

Some verbs have a base that is not or no longer an independent word of Dutch. Examples are verdwijnen to disappear, vergaderen to assemble, to meet and vervelen to bore. An interesting case is veralgemeniseren to generalize, whereby the adjective algemeen general takes the prefix ver- and the verbal suffix -iseer, giving the result a deverbal appearance, whereas *algemeniseren does not exist (in fact, the verb originally lacked -iseer, the older form is veralgemenen to generalize). Another special case is verdonkeremanen to embezzle, which appears to be derived from the phrase donkere maan dark moon.


Derivation by means of ver- is productive. New ver- verbs have a predictable meaning. With a verbal base X, a ver- verb means to X in an undesired way. These verbs are intransitive or obligatorily reflexive. Nominal bases produce transitive ver-verbs with the meaning to turn into X, while for deadjectival derivations the verb means to become (more) X.

[+]Phonological properties

Ver- is always unstressed. If the verb stem begins with a vowel, /r/ sometimes becomes ambisyllabic and forms both the coda of the first and the onset of the second syllable (e.g. veranderen /veŗandərən/ to change)'.

[+]Morphological potential

Ver- verbs participate in many word formation processes. For example, they can be the base for nominalizations (verblijf stay, accommodation, vergunning permit, licence) or adjectivizations (vergelijkbaar comparable, vergeeflijk forgivable). Which derivations are possible depends on the root. Participles of ver- verbs lack the participial prefix ge- (verlopen expired, verbonden connected).

Some ver- verbs have antonyms with ont- (verstoppen to block - ontstoppen to deblock, vergrendelen to bolt, to lock - ontgrendelen to unbolt, to unblock).

A repetition of the action denoted by a ver- verb can occasionally be expressed by her-, whereby the latter prefix replaces the former: veroveren to conquer - heroveren to reconquer, vernieuwen to renew - hernieuwen to renew once more.

[+]Other interesting properties

There are a small number of forms that look like the participles of ver- verbs, while these verbs do not actually exist. Examples are:

Example 1

verslaafd addicted
verbolgen enraged

Such forms have been discussed under the name of "participium praeverbale" ((Rijpma 1978: 77).

  • Marle, J. van1978Veranderingen in woordstructuurKoefoe, G.A.T. and J. van Marle (ed.)Aspecten van taalveranderingGroningenWolters-Noordhoff127-176
  • Rijpma, E. & Schuringa, F.G1978Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenWolters-Noordhoff